Nearly $48 million is on the way to help protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay by underwriting a variety of projects across the estuary’s 64,00-square-mile watershed. The funds are among the $238 million for Bay restoration work that Congress included last year in its mammoth infrastructure funding bill.
In an announcement in Baltimore, Janet McCabe, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deputy administrator, said that $25 million would be handed out by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally chartered nonprofit. Recipients will include communities, nonprofit groups, conservation districts, and others working to protect and restore local streams and habitats.
That money will be distributed via two grant programs, one targeting small watersheds and the other focused on innovative nutrient and sediment reduction measures.
Another $15 million, McCabe said, is to go directly to the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia. It’s to fund projects in river and stream basins where runoff controls, mostly on farms, would be most effective at reducing nutrient and sediment pollution.
Of those funds, $5.59 million will go to Pennsylvania, $3.21 million to Maryland, $3.14 million to Virginia, $1.28 million to New York, $750,000 to Delaware, and $500,000 each to West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Forty percent of the money is designated for environmentally overburdened communities.
The federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program will receive the remaining $7.8 million, to be used primarily for competitive grants for “on-the-ground” restoration projects.
A total of $238 million is targeted for the Bay over the next five years as part of the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Congress passed in November. The measure includes about $550 billion in new spending for work on roads and bridges, rail transit, high-speed internet, and water infrastructure, among other things.
Most of Maryland’s congressional delegation was on hand to hail the announcement on the banks of the Patapsco River, as were state, local, and other federal officials and representatives of nonprofit organizations.
“This will give us the opportunity to make real progress,” said Sen. Benjamin Cardin, in reference to the nearly four-decade effort to restore the Bay’s water quality.
It’s not clear how long it will take before the funding yields work on the ground. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation intends to announce its first round of grant awards in September, said Jake Reilly, who directs the foundation’s Bay programs.
To speed the process and make the grants available to more groups, the EPA has waived its usual requirement that applicants provide non-federal matching funds.